PCS hosts STEM exploration night

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Eighth grade chemistry students demonstrate the chemical breakdown of water at PCS's STEM night Sept. 15. (Reporter photo / Jessa Pease)

Eighth grade chemistry students demonstrate the chemical breakdown of water at PCS’s STEM night Sept. 15. (Reporter photo / Jessa Pease)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM— Science, engineering and math projects lined the walls of the Pelham Civic Complex Sept. 15 at Pelham City Schools’ STEM exploration night.

Parents and students district-wide participated in student-led sessions demonstrating Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative and Project Lead the Way science and engineering activities, interactive math games and video presentations.

Sixth-graders from Riverchase Middle School experimented with an earthquake simulator as they attempted to build structures that could withstand the force of the machine. Other grades from all four schools also demonstrated STEM-based projects and games.

Dr. Elisabeth Davis, director of instruction and curriculum, said the district wanted to show parents how Pelham instructors are teaching math in a system-wide picture. She said they are teaching their students how to think, to be inquiry based and to be problem solvers.

“It’s a shift,” Davis said. “I have a second-grader myself and it’s a new way of learning, but they understand math. We wanted to offer one big K-12 picture.”

Shawn O’Neil and Jessica Sheffield are in seventh grade, learning about the Wisconsin Fast Plants. The class had about a dozen of the plants growing in a container to show their parents.

The plants complete an entire life cycle in just six weeks, and the duo said the class would feed the plants to Cabbage White Butterflies when they hatch.  Students demonstrated chemical breakdowns by splitting water, illustrated the anatomy of a sheep’s brain and explained aircraft engineering and solar energy.

“They (seem to enjoy it) because it’s hands-on, it’s not as much sitting but there is a purpose to learning and it’s relative to them,” Davis said.

The parents also seemed to enjoy the showcase, according to Davis. They rotated through three sessions—the STEM projects, Creating a Mathematician and Math and Science in Action— from 6-7:30 p.m.

Davis said this event gave parents an opportunity to understand what their students are doing and how they are learning.

“(It’s important) so when work comes home and it doesn’t look like it did when we were in school, they don’t get frustrated and that they understand why,” Davis said. “That’s the big thing, is that we want their students to grapple with concepts, struggle and fail even while they are working through it, because that’s where they are going to learn. That’s not what we are used to; we are used to problems in a book.”